Deer hunting season kicks-off with discussions of elk restoration in West Virginia

West Virginia is a destination for deer hunting and possibly for elk hunting in the future, said Curtis Taylor, chief of wildlife resources at West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

“This season just be careful and enjoy the outdoors, and we have things in West Virginia that very few states, if any, can duplicate. We have a million and a half acres of public land, so trying to find a place to hunt is not a problem. So just enjoy the outdoors and it really does my heart good to see folks out having a good time and being safe,” Taylor said.

Deer hunting makes a huge economic impact in the state.

“Half a billion dollars is what we’re looking at from deer hunting,” Taylor said.

“We’re still one of the destination places to deer hunt at least in the East. We get tons of folks from Pennsylvania, from Maryland, from Ohio because our seasons are long, our bag limits are liberal, and we have a million and a half acres of public land where you don’t have to go knock on somebody’s door and ask if I can hunt.”

Taylor is currently holding a series of public meetings to hear public comments about re-introducing an elk herd in the southern counties of the state. Pocahontas County is not included in the current elk restoration discussions. About 170 people attended the first meeting at Chief Logan State Park earlier this month.

“They’re trying desperately to get more tourism in that part of the state. They already have the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and now they’re just trying to add elk to the mix to attract people to that area to spend money and bolster the loss of jobs that they’ve seen in the coal industry.”

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation would provide West Virginia with money to help in the elk restoration process. Taylor has sent a $20,000 grant proposal to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to improve habitat for elk.

“The elk that we had years and years ago was an Eastern elk and the jury is out whether there was enough genetic different for it to be a different subspecies but obviously the elk that evolved in this part of the world were different than the ones out West.”

The last native elk was killed in West Virginia in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, elk were brought to Pocahontas County by train in a rail car. According to an article in The Charleston Gazette, four elk remained at Allegheny Lodge in Minnehaha Springs in 1990. After escaping, and tearing up nearby corn fields and gardens, the elk were killed.

“One of the main reasons that Pocahontas County in itself has not risen high on the list is because there would be significant issues associate with agriculture and that sort of thing. There’s crop lands, there’s hay fields, there’s a lot of agriculture in the Pocahontas, Pendleton, Greenbrier county area, so while there may be habitat that supports elk, there are human problems in that part of the state that by and large there would be a lot more opposition in those counties I would think than there are in the coal fields.”

Taylor recalled the stories of the demise of the Minnehaha Springs elk.

“They were fenced in and they escaped and they caused a little bit of problems in the Minnehaha area.”

“Breaking down fences and tearing up crops, that sort of thing. People don’t take too kindly to building a nice three or four strand barbed wire fence and having it tore down by an elk. They just don’t take kindly to that.”

If elk are restored to the southern part of state, they would be live-trapped in Kentucky and brought to West Virginia. Taylor said there actually already are elk in the state that have crossed the border on their own from Virginia and Kentucky.

Story By

Kelly Taber

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